R Kelly, Flo Rida top CD reviews

Flor Rida and R Kelly (WENN.COM)

Flor Rida and R Kelly (WENN.COM)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Between Canada Day and the 4th of July, the music industry has basically taken the week off. Thankfully, there are a few folks besides me working the holidays. Cue the fireworks:

R. Kelly

Write Me Back

Retro-Soul

3.5 stars out of 5

Dear R. Kelly: Thank you for your Love Letter in 2010. Really appreciated your reverent homage to ’60s soul. Thanks also for this equally seductive thematic sequel — shifting forward to the Philly soul and disco-pop sounds of the ’70s was a smart, smooth move.

Playing it safe never sounded so satisfying. Now, could you please return to Trapped in the Closet? Your pal, Darryl.

Download: Love Is; All Rounds on Me

Flo Rida

Wild Ones

Hip-House

2 stars out of 5

Some artists spend years toiling over their music. Not Flo Rida. His last "album" was 27 minutes long. This fourth release is a relative epic at 34. And like its predecessor, it feels like nothing more than his latest batch of singles — mostly pumping hip-house jams, with one ballad and a summery double-entrendre pop ditty for good measure — strung end to end. He's not even trying.

Download: Good Feeling; Wild Ones

Sloan

Australia 1999

Power-Pop

4 stars out of 5

One good boot deserves another. So, after releasing an awesome audience recording of a ’93 Winnipeg gig last year, everyone's favourite power-popsters dig into the vault again — and emerge with this stereo soundboard tape of a raucous, rough ’n’ ready club show from Sydney in 1999. The limited-edition vinyl is gone, but the download has four bonus cuts. Keep ’em coming, boys.

Download: The whole thing at www.sloanmusic.com

Dirty Heads

Cabin by the Sea

Reggae Rock

3 stars out of 5

Still need a soundtrack to your summer? You could do worse than the breezy sophomore disc from these laid-back Huntington reggae-rockers.

Their Sublime-style odes to chilling out, fires on the beach and getting mellow are hooky and groovy enough to be the backdrop to any beach party — and generic enough that you can delete them from your playlist without guilt on Labour Day.

Download: Cabin by the Sea; Hipster

Neneh Cherry & The Thing

Cherry Thing

Jazz

4 stars out of 5

Jazz is whatever you make of it. And erstwhile Buffalo Stance singer Cherry makes it from some unlikely sources on her first album in six years. With the aid of Swedish mavericks The Thing, she revamps cuts by The Stooges, Suicide, MF Doom and others, setting her sassy vocals against post-bop workouts full of clattery beats, dark grooves and skronky sax. Don would approve.

Download: Too Tough to Die; Cashback

Kelly Hogan

I Like to Keep Myself in Pain

Country-Soul

4 stars out of 5

"We can't have nice things," laments Hogan. Says who? The criminally overlooked belter is surrounded by beauty on her latest disc — from a roster of stunning country-soul cuts penned by Vic Chesnutt, Andrew Bird, Robyn Hitchcock, M. Ward and others to the crack band led by Booker T. But Hogan and her big, spellbinding pipes take a backseat to no one. Her pain, your gain.

Download: Dusty Groove; Daddy's Little Girl

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The dB’s

Falling Off the Sky

Power-Pop

3 stars out of 5

This week in long-overdue reunions: The original lineup of North Carolina’s dB’s — led by singer-guitarists Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple — have released their first album in 30 years. And while it doesn’t pack quite the same power-pop punch as their ’80s offerings, it has enough nostalgic jangle and confident craftsmanship to put a smile on any middle-aged R.E.M. fan’s face.

Download: That Time is Gone; Before We Were Born

Pat Metheny

Unity Band

Jazz

3.5 stars out of 5

Unity is swell. But for Metheny, it’s about variety. The jazz guitar hero changes course yet again on his zillionth album, adding sax to his band for the first time in 30 years. Chris Potter holds up his end admirably, keeping pace with Metheny and a kinetic rhythm section on a typically eclectic array of Latin beats, breezy swing, funky post-bop and more. Be nice if they stayed together.

Download: Roofdogs; Leaving Town

Motion City Soundtrack

Go

Pop-Punk

3 stars out of 5

Go Home might be a better title. Barely two years after fleeing indie- land for a major label, these Minneapolis pop-punks have returned to Epitaph for their fifth disc. But they haven't completely reverted; these 11 cuts continue to display the sharper hooks, mellower moods and poppier songcraft that have been creeping into their last few albums. Whether that's progress is debatable.

Download: Circuits & Wires; Son of a Gun

The Tallest Man on Earth

There's No Leaving Now

Indie-Folk

3 stars out of 5

Even the tallest of men can grow. Dylanesque Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson's third home-made full-length is also his most expansive and ambitious, augmenting his strummy acoustic indie-folk and ragged Zimmy-style vocals with richer melodies and more overdubs.

He may be standing on the shoulders of a giant, but at least he's trying to find his own two feet.

Download: 1904; Bright Lanterns

Jukebox the Ghost

Safe Travels

Pop-Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

Pop music doesn't have to be aimed at the Glee club. This Brooklyn piano-rock trio make that clear with the grownup sound of their third disc, fusing the sharp wit and songwriting smarts of Ben Folds, FoW and OK Go with dashes of Queen and The Bee Gees. Even their shaggy looks are more suited to Bonnaroo than MTV. Hear them now, before somebody gives them a makeover.

Download: Somebody; At Last

Joyce Manor

Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired

Pop-Punk

4 stars out of 5

Patience may not one of Joyce Manor's virtues. The California pop- punkers' latest release doesn't seem like much at first blush — just nine songs crammed into 13 minutes. But thanks to their exceptional songcraft and endearingly ragged style, they cram enough hooks, novelty and charm into these song snippets to keep you coming back for more. ADD music for our ADD times.

Download: Comfortable Clothes; If I Needed You There

Soundtrack of Our Lives

Throw it to the Universe

Psychedelic-Rock

4 stars out of 5

All good things must come to an end. And word is that these Swedish retro-rockers' sixth album is also their swan song. If so, they're going out on a high note: These 13 tracks are some of their most pointed work to date, balancing the garage-rock heft and dreamy psychedelia of the ’60s while toeing an emotional line between triumphant celebration and wistful nostalgia. A fine sendoff.

Download: Throw it to the Universe; Faster Than the Speed of Light

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DOWN/STREAM

New Pornographers

Think About Me

It's been a couple of years since we heard from Carl Newman and the rest of New Pornographers. No word yet on when they'll reward us with a new album, but here's a little treat to tide you over: A suitably shimmery and summery cover of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk classic Think About Me, taken from the upcoming Mac tribute disc Just Tell Me That You Want Me, due out Aug. 14.

soundcloud.com/concordmusicgroup/think-about-me

Cat Power

Ruin

Cat comes back Sept. 4 with Sun, her first album since 2008's southern-soul sojourn Jukebox. Since then, the enigmatic and restless singer born Chan Marshall seems to have taken another creative turn — this first single is driven by a gently thumping tom-tom beat, a pretty piano melody, some scratchy funk licks and dusky vocals more reminiscent of Feist or Fiona than Otis.

www.catpowermusic.com

Stars

The Theory of Relativity

From Sun to Stars: These beloved Canadian popsters are also returning Sept. 4 with a new album titled The North. Based on this sneak preview, we're in for a major dose of synth-pop nostalgia. The beat is decorated with ’80s style handclaps, the synths are bubbly and grindy, and Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan's sweetly cooed vocals intertwine like old lovers. Relatively wonderful.

starsthenorth.com

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DVDs

Stone Temple Pilots

Alive in the Windy City

Rock

3.5 stars out of 5

With Scott Weiland, you never know what to expect. So it's a pleasant surprise to find STP's unpredictable frontman on point and in fine form here, leading these resurgent California alt-rockers through a strong 77-minute theatre performance that includes a host of classic hits and some newer fare. An even bigger surprise: He's lucid and intelligent during the 15-minute bonus interview.

The Raconteurs

Live at Montreux

Garage-Rock

4 stars out of 5

Still waiting for a third album from Jack White's garage-rock supergroup? Console yourself with this electrifying 90-minute DVD. Taped at the Swiss music fest in 2008, it captures the Nashville crew at the height of their powers as they tear through loud, hard-driving (and often expanded) versions of all their essentials. Two downsides: 1) No interview; 2) Jack's unfortunate hairstyle.

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GARAGE BAND

Dennis Williams

Toronto, Ont.

gtrman.net

You can probably tell where Dennis Williams is coming from by the URL of his website. If not, a cursory visit will make it clear: He's one of those dudes who has probably spent countless years in his basement playing scales, practising runs and learning tricks from Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Al Di Meola. And for whatever that's worth, he sure can play fast. But like so many wannabe guitar heroes, his music (at least what I listened to) consists of eleventy bajillion notes but no songs.

VERDICT: "All skills, no thrills."

1.5 stars out of 5

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UPCOMING

July 10

Uncaged

Zac Brown Band

Complete Beat (Box Set)

English Beat

Woody at 100: Centennial Collection

Woody Guthrie

Unsound

Mission of Burma

25 to Life

Rev. Horton Heat

Harakiri

Serj Tankian

Old School, New Rules

Hank Williams Jr.

 

July 17

Rebirth

Jimmy Cliff

Band of Brothers

Hellyeah

Someday

Susanna Hoffs

Hypnotic Nights

Jeff the Brotherhood

Spark Seeker

Matisyahu

Life is Good

Nas

Delayed Reaction

Soul Asylum

 

 

 


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